"If it were any good, my doctor would tell me about it..."
Why isn't therapeutic efficacy but ego and greed that determine which cancer treatment options are available in the U.S.?
I recently testified before the U.S. Congressional Committee on Government Reform during a hearing on "Integrative Oncology - Cancer Care for the New Millennium". I was asked to discuss effective alternative cancer treatments that are practiced in other countries, yet not allowed to be used in the United States. But I also had to address why conventional medicine in this country has stubbornly refused to budge from its three therapeutic pillars of radiation, chemotherapy and surgery. After a quarter of a century spending $2 billion dollars a year for cancer research - now $3 billion - the results unequivocally show that these modalities as currently practiced not only fail as cures but also unnecessarily destroy the quality of cancer patients' lives. Why not embrace different approaches that have been shown to work far more effectively?
The fact is that many powerful economic forces - pharmaceutical companies, physicians' trade groups, insurance companies, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) - want healthcare to stay exactly the way it is because they are thriving under it. The reason alternative cancer treatments are not yet mainstream has little to do with alleged therapeutic ineffectiveness and far more to do with political control over the therapy marketplace. Successful alternative approaches to cancer are seen as a direct financial threat to this system. The politics of cancer have an overriding influence on the science of cancer and, ultimately, on what cancer treatment options are available.
If you think that authorities in the government health agencies would never sacrifice the well-being and lives of Americans to maintain the status quo - if you think that "it couldn't happen here" - let me relate to you a shameful example that I shared with the committee. All the facts have been well documented and are easy to verify from public records.
In the late 1960s, physician and independent researcher Joseph Gold, M.D., had an idea about a new approach to treating cancer. He realized that most people do not die from the invasiveness of cancer tumors themselves but from the side effects of the cancer process. One of the chief side effects is a wasting process called cachexia: extreme weight loss due to the loss of lean tissue and muscle mass.
Cachexia results from a peculiarity of cancer cell metabolism. Cancer cells use glucose from the body as fuel and release lactic acid as a waste product. The body detoxifies the lactic acid in the liver and reconverts it into glucose, with a huge energy drain on the patient. This new glucose is once again taken up and used as fuel by the cancer cells, and the vicious cycle continues: the body uses up its reserves and healthy tissue turning toxic cancer wastes into new fuel for cancer cells.
Dr. Gold came upon a reference to a chemical called hydrazine sulfate, an easily synthesized substance that could block a particular liver enzyme necessary to convert lactic acid into glucose. He reasoned that this could break the cycle and inhibit the growth of cancer tumors while preserving normal tissue. He first proposed using hydrazine sulfate to combat cachexia in 1969.
In various independent clinical trials in the U.S., the compound significantly improved the nutritional status and survival of lung cancer patients. In a study of 740 patients with various types of cancer, 51% of patients reported tumor stabilization or regression. Almost half the patients also reported subjective improvement, notably decreased pain and better appetite.
Similar studies were performed in Russia with almost identical results. Four double-blind, placebo-controlled studies conducted in the 1980's by Harbor-UCLA Medical Center reported increased survival rates for cancer patients using hydrazine sulfate. Because of this success, certain officials in the FDA began to look for a pharmaceutical company that would agree to undertake the expensive testing necessary to get the drug approved and therefore widely available.
Traditional chemotherapy attempts to kill cancer cells with poisons - cytotoxins - that also poison and weaken the entire body. Chemotherapy is expensive: every approved cytotoxin is the patented product of a pharmaceutical company that spent tens or hundreds of millions of dollars developing it and bringing it through the approval process. Hydrazine sulfate, on the other hand, was dirt cheap - treatment costs less than a dollar a day. In proper doses it was virtually without side effects. It represented an entirely different approach to cancer treatment. And it worked. It was, in other words, a huge threat.
It was at this time that the National Cancer Institute decided the best way to handle the situation was to sponsor studies of hydrazine sulfate themselves, which allowed them complete control. Dr. Gold's research had revealed two important caveats in using hydrazine sulfate. First, dosage amounts were critical: too high a dose would not only be devoid of beneficial effects but could create a toxic environment that would increase mortality. Second, patients had to absolutely avoid certain other drugs, including alcohol, barbiturates and antidepressants; these negated hydrazine sulfate's action. Yet in the NCI trials, 94% of the patients were taking those very drugs that Dr. Gold had determined would deactivate hydrazine sulfate and increase mortality.
In sabotaging the trials, the NCI not only managed to discredit the drug's use in the minds of most of the world's doctors, but undoubtedly added to the suffering and shortened the lives of many of the patients involved in the trials.
Nevertheless, hydrazine sulfate, properly administered, just worked too effectively to be totally quashed. In 1987, Jeff Kamen, at that time Washington correspondent for Independent Network News television, ran a series of articles on how the NCI was trying to suppress the truth about hydrazine sulfate. His stories led to a House oversight subcommittee ordering an investigation by the General Accounting Office (GAO).
In 1994 an investigation was begun under the leadership of GAO assistant director Barry Tice. His group compiled a report that scathingly criticized the NCI. The report was initially titled "NIH Actions Spur Continued Controversy Over Hydrazine Sulfate Therapy".
On June 5, 1995, the report was sent out to the FDA, the Public Health Service and the NCI for review. When top officials at the NCI read the report their reaction was characterized by eyewitnesses as going "ballistic," and "really crazy." The NCI went on a campaign to have the GAO change the report - and they succeeded. In-house politicians at the GAO altered or deleted damning portions of the report and retitled it "Contrary to Allegation, NIH Studies of Hydrazine Sulfate Were Not Flawed."
"You can imagine how upset I was - and still am - about that title," Barry Tice told Mr. Kamen in a subsequent interview. "The impact of the changes and a few key deletions was tremendous. Those changes took the NCI almost completely off the hook."
Mr. Kamen wrote another article on this cover-up that provoked the Senate Subcommittee on Investigation to look into the matter. They managed to bring to light the facts as to how top officials in the GAO overruled their own staff and buckled under political pressure from the cancer establishment.
In a later interview, acting chief counsel of the committee, Mr. Jeffrey Robbins, was asked about the validity of the NCI trials of hydrazine sulfate. "The studies are flawed to the point of being meaningless," he said. Did the GAO tell the truth about the NCI? "No," Robbins replied. "And let me add this: I am not a doctor. I do not know if hydrazine sulfate cures cancer, but I do know that the American people did not get what they paid for in all of this: an unbiased test of the drug, or for that matter an unbiased report on the conduct of the NCI. That is wrong and should not stand.
Yet, such is the power of the cancer establishment that hydrazine sulfate is slated to be banned by the FDA in November of this year. I implored the Congressional committee to not let this happen.
It can't happen here? It not only can, it is happening, and will continue without citizen activism.
Concerned readers can find out more about hydrazine sulfate by visiting www.hydrazinesulfate.org.
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